Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Success with Container Gardens for Newbies & Folks Without Gardens


“Eat local.” “Organic is best.” We hear these admonitions regularly. Crabapple LandscapExperts suggest that potting up a few herbs and a vegetable or two is a great way for non-gardeners, brown thumbers, or those who don’t have a yard to do a little gardening and harvest their own crops. It’s also a great way to involve children in the planting and eating of veggies.

All you need is a little spot outdoors and some sun,. A large container is a manageable space that won’t overwhelm even the newest beginner. As far as containers go, choose a large one (16 inches, round or square, is a good rule of thumb), to minimize fluctuations in moisture and temperature that occur when a smaller pot is used. Make sure the container has at least one drainage hole at the bottom.

Choose a commercial potting mix with both water-holder granules and long-term nutrients to take your veggies through the summer. Fill the container to the brim, using plenty of potting soil. Don’t worry about packing it down because after watering the soil will soon settle to an inch or two below the rim. 

Instead of putting pot shards or rocks at bottom, use a piece of old screen (it can be cut with utility scissors) over the drainage hole to prevent the soil mix from seeping out. 

The idea for containers is to use a single tall plant in the middle (Thriller), then two or three kinds of colorful or fragrant plants of medium-height (Fillers) in the container, and finally add a few trailing plants around the edge to cascade over the sides (Spiller).

To help you decide what to plant, a few “container recipes” follow. Please modify as you like.

Container Recipe 1- Full Sun
Plant in the center: 1 tomato plant such as “Cherry” or “Sweet 100”, and insert 1 tomato cage for support (small, 3-hoops)
Plant your fillers around the tomato, alternating: 2 oregano and 2 colorful annual flowers such as marigold or nasturtium
Allow to trail over the edge: 2 creeping golden lemon thyme

Container Recipe 2 – Full Sun
Plant in center: 1 upright rosemary
Plant around the rosemary, alternating: 2 Spicy Globe mini-Basil, 2 parsley
Allow to trail over the edge (trailing annuals like petunias or Fan Flower)

Container Recipe 3 –Part Shade
Plant in center: upright ornamental shrub such as: elephants ears,  hibiscus, gardenia, nandina, bouganvilla, boxwood, etc.
Plant around the edge, alternating 2 Coleus and 2 begonias
Plant over the edge 2 trailers such as variegated jasmine or sweet potato vine 

Thoroughly water the newly-planted container garden. During the first week or two, keep an eye on the moisture level until the plants become established and roots grow into the soil in the container.

If you wish, you may also add a whirly-gig, a rain gauge, or a decorative butterfly or hummingbird on a stake to complete your ensemble. Keep Crabapple LandscapExperts updated on your container garden. We would love to see your photos posted on the Crabapple LandscapExperts Facebook Page. Become a Fan today!

Middle photo credit: ContainerVegetableGarden.org
Top and bottom credit: Geri Laufer

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